Shaft! You’re damn right!
Nightrider here and on this installment of Underground, we’ll take a look at some hits and the musical legacy of Isaac Hayes. Please note that we’re not discussing the “Theme from Shaft” piece because it’s too cool to be done. Even though he is famous for playing “Chef” from South Park and “The Duke of New York” from Escape From New York, some would know that Hayes was a musician first.
In the early ’60s, Hayes was a session player for different acts of Stax Records based in Memphis. With his songwriting partner David Porter, Hayes and Porter wrote some hit songs for Sam and Dave: “Soul Man,” “Hold On, I’m Coming,” and “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby.”
After releasing several albums as a solo artist, Hayes was approached by movie producer Joel Freeman to score the 1971 blaxploitation film Shaft. Freeman promised an audition for the lead role but it never happened yet Hayes provided the score anyways. His title song “Theme from Shaft” became a worldwide hit, winning Hayes the Oscar for Best Original song and an Oscar nomination for Best Soundtrack. Hayes would re-record his famous piece in the updated 2000 version of Shaft that starred Samuel L. Jackson.
Hayes also contributed a song to Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head Do America with his Shaft parody song “Two Cool Guys.”
Other great musical pieces from Isaac Hayes include:
- His reinterpretation of “Walk On By” made famous by Dionne Warwick
- “The Look of Love” written by Burt Bacharach
- “Title Theme” from the blaxploitation film Three Tough Guys used in Kill Bill Vol. 2
- “Hung Up On My Baby” also from Three Tough Guys
Hayes’ music influenced hip-hop artists when it came to sampling. Hayes’ “Walk On By” was used by Tupac in his song “Hood Took Me Under” and Wu-Tang Clan’s “Me Against The World.” Famously, “Hung Up on My Baby” was used for the classic Geto Boys piece “Mind Playing Tricks On Me.”
Isaac Hayes left a vast staple in funk, soul, and disco. Everyone should listen to his instrumental work so that they get an idea of how well of a musician Isaac Hayes is and how he creates masterful compositions.